France grants refugee status to Thai political exiles

France has granted refugee status to Thai political refugees and lèse majesté suspects who fled Thailand after the 2014 coup d’état.

According to the BBC Thai Service, the French government on 12 June granted refugee status to Saran Chuichai, aka Aum Neko, a renowned Thai transgender student activist, who fled to France shortly after the coup d’état on 22 June 2014.

Activists display the three-fingered salute in front of a cinema in Paris to protest against the Thai junta in November 2014. Aum Neko is in the bottom right-hand corner

She added that she was interviewed by French officials regarding the way in which she travelled to France and the intimidation and harassment she experienced in Thailand prior to her self-imposed exile.

In addition, France also granted refugee status to Jaran Ditapichai, a former member of the first National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and renowned political activist, who also fled to France after the coup.   

BBC Thai also reported that Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a well-known historian and a fierce critic of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, was granted refugee status from the French government.  

Since the coup on 22 May 2014, about a hundred pro-democracy activists have fled the country. Most were involved in the red-shirt movement. Most decided to flee after they were summoned by the junta. Most also face lèse majesté charges.

Seeing the military court handing down severe verdicts in lèse majesté cases with little likelihood of getting bail and no appeals allowed, their chance of walking free in the Kingdom of Thailand is slim and it is no wonder that leaving the country is a better option.

Sarun told the media that the French state agency which deals with refugees granted her refugee status seven months after she settled in France, according to BCC Thai.